I’ve been meaning to blog about a recent social media mishap for a while now, but what with trips away, ill health and birthdays in the family, it’s been a busy month. Anyway, here are some reflections on how I use – and misuse – social media.
Shortly after the General Election, I was idly scrolling through Facebook on my phone when I spotted an ironic post which one of my friends (let’s call him Facebook Friend 1) had shared about a political party which he and I both disagree with and didn’t vote for. It made me chuckle, so I hit ‘share’, moved on and thought no more about it.
Later that day, again scrolling through Facebook, I saw that another friend (Facebook Friend 2) had seen this post, failed to see the funny side (being of a completely different political viewpoint to myself and FB Friend 1) and had posted a snarky response to it. But by some weird Facebook freak which I still don’t understand, Friend 2’s snarky comment had showed up not on my page, but as a direct response to Friend 1’s post. Now, Friend 1 and Friend 2 have never met and don’t have an awful lot in common – and if I’d ever got my head round the whole Google Circles thing I’d have been able to keep them well away from each other, but instead, I share everything indiscriminately on Facebook and this is what happens – so a brief squabble ensued between the two of them while I cringed in a corner.
As a direct result of all this, FB Friend 2 has since deactivated his Facebook account, on the grounds that too much political stuff he disagrees with keeps popping up on his newsfeed. This brought me up sharp, as I realised that most of what he’s objecting to is probably down to me. The more I thought about it, I realised that the satirical post which caused all the mischief was actually just one of a long stream of similar posts which I’d shared with all and sundry in the run up to GE2015. Looking back, my timeline over April and May consisted almost entirely of petitions I’d signed, newspaper articles reflecting my political viewpoint, and declarations of my voting intentions. Which is probably fine for the 30% or so of my Facebook friends who I know share my political stance, but what about everyone else? The people who only signed up to be my friends so we could share family news, holiday photos or check whether it’s non-uniform day at school? I would never (at least I hope I wouldn’t) subject work colleagues, family members, fellow mums in the playground to a non-stop political lecture when meeting them face-to-face, so why do I think it’s ok to behave like that to those same people online?
Unsurprisingly, I’ve gone off Facebook and Twitter a bit recently as a result of all this – I don’t trust myself not to be a keyboard idiot anymore. I’ve been discovering the joys of Instagram and Pinterest instead. I’m probably a bit less clued up about what’s going on in the news every day, but it’s kind of peaceful. Swapping Twitter for Pinterest in particular makes me feel as if I’ve exchanged a pile of broadsheet newspapers for some glossy home interiors magazines – it’s meaningless fluff, but at least I’m not firing off vitriolic keyboard outbursts in response to whatever’s annoyed me, and consequently annoying other people in the process.
Ironically I’ve also recently been playing the role of social media adviser to 10YO daughter (who is now actually 11YO!). She’s just got a phone for her birthday, so a whole new world of texting, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp etc is opening up for her. As I tried to get her to think seriously about what is appropriate and inappropriate to share on social media, it occurred to me that I’m no expert myself. If I (someone in their 40’s, who’s been using Facebook for both work and social life for several years) am capable of inadvertently sharing inappropriate stuff and annoying friends , then how can we possibly be surprised that children and teenagers get out of their depth in social media?
I’d love to hear what other people think about this. How do you use social media – what ground rules do you give your children – or yourself! – about what is and isn’t sensible to share online?